NEW ULM - A group of 18 missionary volunteers, with seven of its members hailing locally from Our Savior's Lutheran Church, is seeking to make a life-changing difference for the people of a small town in Tanzania.
The group departed today for over 19 hours of traveling for their trip. The objectives for the 16 days the group with spend overseas is to teach sewing skills, administer basic vision exams and help drill a much needed deep water well for a small school in the village of Kikatiti.
This is the fourth time some of the local members of the group will be traveling to volunteer at the village. Over that time, the group has helped out with growing the school from a three-room building with dirt floors to one with nearly 20 rooms with amenities like dorms and a library. Over the last 10 years, the local delegation has helped to raises over $250,000 to pay for the tuition for students to go to the school. In Tanzania, only elementary school is free. Secondary schools must charge tuition, which means many students' families can't afford to send them.
From left, Bill and Carol Koeckeritz, Duane Lambrecht, and Jim and Nancy Thomas pose with some of the extra suitcases packed with medical and humanitarian supplies they are taking to the village of Kikatiti in Tanzania. Their 16-day mission trip starts today.
Bill Koeckeritz, who is leading the local group, said the interest in the mission started with Doug and Linda Dybsetter, two New Ulm business owners who sold their shops in what is now the Grand Kabaret to work as missionaries. Their work took them to Tanzania, and they got their friends back home interested in helping out with the school.
All of these projects the group will be working on in this trip are aimed at improving the lives for the students in meaningful ways.
The group will start the deep water well project, which is expected to take two years to full complete, in order to replace the less consistent water system being piped into the area from five miles away, often in an inconsistent manner. The group has raised $22,000 of the $30,000 needed for the project over the last five years. The initial drilling will be covered by how much has been raised so far. The rest will be raised over the course of the project, with the funds covering a needed filtration system to make the well water drinkable.
The eye exams project was made possible by the donation of an auto refractor machine by Dr. Steve Arke of Arke & Clark in New Ulm. The machine will be used by all members of the group to administer eye exams and determine if any children need prescription glasses. The groups is also bring over 275 pairs of donated glasses with their prescriptions marked, which the give to free to children whose prescriptions match with the glasses. Anybody that needs a prescription that does not match will have it filled in the United States when the groups returns and mailed back to them.
"[These projects] will be life-changing for many of them," said Koeckeritz.
The group will be carrying an extra 14 bags full of medical and humanitarian supplies, from stethoscopes and blood pressure machines to a thousand toothbrushes.
Beyond the big projects, members of the group will also be showing the teachers of the school how to teach certain practical skills like dental hygiene and sewing.
"Many of these kids won't be going on to higher eduction. We're trying to teach them practical skills they will be able to use over and over," said Koeckeritz.
The group will perform work in Tanzania for 16 days before returning home by Nov. 14.
Josh Moniz can be e- mailed at email@example.com